Blank Noise Project - I Never Asked For It

Full disclaimer: Blank Noise founder Jasmeen Patheja is a friend of mine, so I’m not even going to pretend not to be biased in the organization’s favor. But the truth is that we met a year ago over coffee at a Barista in Kolkata because I wanted to find out more about what the group was doing to speak out against the physical and verbal harassment of women on the streets of India. I’d been following the blog for a while and read about the One Night Stand protest in Bangalore, a direct action that involved a group of women taking over a railing that lined the footpath in a busy market area where men traditionally stood to ogle and fondle passing women. Crowded urban shopping areas are prime real estate for eve teasers, as they present an opportunity for men to “accidentally” bump into, rub against, or grab women’s bodies as they pass. Tired of having to constantly be on guard, the women (and men) of Blank Noise demand their safe access to public space.

In recent months, Blank Noise has launched several consciousness raising campaigns that center women’s experience on the street. One campaign is entitled “I Never Asked For It” and includes women taking photos of the clothing they were wearing while eve teased to put to rest the idea that only certain types of “promiscuously dressed” women are harassed. Alongside the photographs are the words “I Never Asked For It” in several Indian languages, including Bengali (ami kokhunoyi chai na), Malayalam (njaan aavashyapettilla), and Tamil (naan ketkamataen), as well as other languages around the world like French and Dutch. Blank Noise also asked for contributions of common sayings that excuse men’s lecherous behaviors and imply that women do ask for it. The sayings are then coupled with visual descriptions. For example, agar mittha samne hai toh makhi toh zaroor aasi is Punjabi for “if there’s something sweet , then it is obvious that the flies will be there too,” which implies that attractive women invite men’s stares and comments.

Blank Noise volunteers in chapters from Kolkata to Chennai to Mumbai meet to discuss how they will go about talking to men about how eve teasing effects women. Some have taken a chart that lists several different behaviors (e.g., staring, spitting on, whistling) and asked men to put their thumbprint in the box of the behaviors they believe are eve teasing in order to start a dialogue with them. Others prefer to converse on the blog by sending in a picture of the place they were harassed with the story of what happened during the incident, a project the organization calls “Action Heroes.”

The activities I’ve named only begin to scratch the surface of Blank Noise Project, and Jasmeen’s vision for the group is vast and exciting. Check out their recent actions on their website and befriend them on Facebook to receive event announcements and updates.


by Mandy Van Deven
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6 Comments Have Been Posted

This is a great project,

This is a great project, especially considering how widespread a problem this is. It's sad that some of the same excuses used for objectification and sexual assault in the States are used in other parts of the world as well. Not surprising, just sad.


Thank you, thank you for posting this. I spent last summer in India and was bowled over by the amount of street harassment I received -- I hardly ever experience street harassment in the U.S., which might have to do with where I live, or my gender presentation, or whatever. "Eve teasing" is a very real issue, and this is a smart response. I am so glad to hear about this great project, and I LOVE the guide to unapologetic walking. Brilliant -- thanks again for sharing, and to the folks at Blank Noise, keep up the good work!


Jasmeen just informed me that BNP will have unapologetic walking tees available soon. :)

are there any organizations

are there any organizations like this in the US or South America? i'm tired of this shit too!

the other day i was walking down a grocery isle and some dude was harassing me so i said what the fuck are you looking at. and guess what? ass starts cursing at me n shit. the verbal violence of his response was not surprising though...


There are several organizations in the US that work to end street harassment. Again, this is me showing my bias, but a great film about how street harassment affects women of color in NYC is <ahref=""><i>Hey...Shorty!</i></a>, which was created by <a href="">Girls for Gender Equity</a>'s Sisters in Strength community organizers, a group I started for teen women in 2005.

<a href="">Stop Street Harassment</a> has a lot of academic-y research and <a href="">links to other resources</a>, like the well-known group <a href="">Hollaback NYC</a>, who encourage women to use modern technology like cell phone cameras to publicize their stories about being harassed on the street, and <a href="! Women of Color Against Violence</a>, who have a more comprehensive mission to combat institutionalized violence in the US through grassroots organizing. I know <a href="">Cairo, Egypt</a> has a lot of anti-harassment organizing going on, but I haven't come across anything in South America yet.

To everyone wanting a

To everyone wanting a similiar program in your area of the world, why not start one yourself? Let's take the initiative and stop waiting for someone else to do it for us. I know we can do it.

"Be the change you wish to see in the world." -Ghandi

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